Chapter Twenty Nine

(Sarah)

 

Before waking up that morning, Sarah never would have thought she’d be happy to see the slave trader’s room underneath the pound.  After what she’d just gone through, though, she found the moldy stone walls and rusty chain link cage the most welcome sight on earth…

 

Because it meant she was back in the real world.

 

She stood up on wobbly legs as Porter opened his eyes.  He blinked a few times to clear his eyes, and then yawned, stretching his arms above his head and his wings out behind his back.

 

“Crazy dream, huh?” he said to her, but he knew just as well as she did that that had been no dream.

 

“How do you feel?” she asked.

 

“Like I just got the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks,” he answered.

 

He was right, she realized.  They had both just fought for their lives against the most terrible monster that had ever lived, and yet their bodies seemed to think all they had done was take a nap.  She held out her hand to help him up.

 

“So, what do we do now?” She asked, reverting to their intimate soul-talk.

 

Porter fixed her with an intense stare, and she felt the excitement suddenly shoot up inside of him.

 

“We’ve got the Keeping Fire,” he answered.  “Not only that, but we’ve got something better.  We know what Mortoph really is.  If we can reveal that, it’ll work even better than telling everyone about his lies.”

 

Sarah nodded, but couldn’t crush the uneasy feeling that had settled in her stomach.

 

“Okay, but how do we do that?” She asked.  “It’s one thing to tell people he lied to them.  Telling them he’s an ancient monster out to destroy the world is another.”

 

Porter nodded too, but she could tell that he’d already thought about this.  His emotions told her that he didn’t have a solution either.

 

“I don’t know,” he admitted at last.  “But it’s too late to turn back now.  All we can do is go out there and hope that everything works out.”

 

No more words were needed.  They both understood what they were about to walk into, but the small fires of hope still burned inside of them.  Porter turned and led the way out of the small prison, climbing the ladder until he ascended into the pound above.  When Sarah came out after him, the first rays of sunlight were already streaming in through the windows.

 

“Let’s go find the others,” she said, heading for the door, but stopped when Porter put a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Wait,” he told her.

 

She stopped and turned to look at him expectantly.  She could feel the uncertainty roiling around inside of him, but she was encouraged by the fact that he could still put on a brave smile.

 

“I want you to take Flicker and my Kalion armor,” he told her at last.

 

“What?” She exclaimed internally, taking a step backwards.  “I can’t do that, Porter!  That would leave you defenseless!”

 

“No, it won’t,” he argued.  “I know how to fight.  I knew even before I started using Flicker.  You don’t.  Flicker and the armor will protect you.  Even if you never learned how to fight, they’ll make you stronger and faster.”

 

“But…” Sarah persisted. “What about you?”

 

Now Sarah was afraid as well.  Without his unbreakable armor, Porter would be just as vulnerable as anyone else.  What would happen if he…  She silenced those thoughts as Porter sent a wave of comforting emotions her direction.

 

“I’m your protector.  That means I’ll do anything to keep you safe.  Right now, the best way I can do that is to make sure you don’t go into battle without armor and a weapon.”

 

“But…”

 

“Don’t worry about me,” he said, and took a step towards her, smiling.  “I’m your hero, remember?”

 

He leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the lips. “Now, take it.”

 

Sarah hesitated, but then nodded.  “Okay, how do I do that?”

 

Porter paused, and looked like he was concentrating on something.

 

“Go to Sarah,” she heard him thinking.  “I’m your master, and I’m telling you to protect Sarah from now on.”

 

Sarah stood there awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

 

“Try summoning them,” he told her at last.  “Just think about them appearing.  That’s how I’ve always done it.”

 

Nodding, Sarah closed her eyes for a moment.  She flexed her hand, and Flicker appeared in it, just like it always did for Porter.  No bang or flash of light, one moment it wasn’t there and then the next it was.  She wrapped her fist around it tightly as the armor began to materialize over her body.  For a second, she was worried that it wouldn’t fit her, since she didn’t have a completely human shape.  Her worries were proven unfounded, though, when it automatically adjusted itself to fit around her body.  Holes formed in the back to accommodate her wings and tail, and she moved them each experimentally.

 

“It fits perfectly,” she thought as the helmet covered her face.

 

Sarah raised the hand that held Flicker, and then extended it.  The sword felt strangely familiar in her hands, and when she gave it an experimental swing the blade sliced cleanly through the air, reflecting the sunlight all over the room.

 

“I’ll feel a lot better out there knowing you’ve got my armor and sword,” Porter told her.  “Take it off for now.  We need to go find the others.”

 

The armor and sword melted into nothingness at Sarah’s command.  There was fear in her heart, and she knew Porter felt it as well, but she did feel safer now.  She wouldn’t be so afraid to dive into the middle of the battle now that she had some protection.  The ideal situation would be if they arrived in time to prevent there being a battle at all, but Sarah didn’t feel too optimistic about that.

 

Porter took her hand in his own and led her from the pound and out onto the street.  The storm had cleared, leaving the sky bright and deceptively cheerful.  They had barely taken three steps, though, when an Asian girl came running up to them.  Sarah immediately felt Porter tense up, and he flexed his hand to summon Flicker before remembering that he had given it to Sarah.  She put a hand on his shoulder to calm him, though, and laughed.

 

“It’s just Misty,” she told him.

 

“That’s Misty?” He echoed as the girl drew nearer, and Sarah realized that this was the first time he’d actually seen her in human form.  She looked very much like her brother.  The same naturally wild black hair, the same mischievous glint in her eyes.

 

“Misty!” Sarah called to her friend.  “You never go around in human form.  What’s going on?”

 

“No time,” she said breathlessly, skidding to a stop in front of them.  She was panting, as if she’d just ran all the way across town.  “We’ve been looking for you all morning.  There’s something on TV that Azkular wants you to see!”

 

Without another word, she raced off in the opposite direction.  Porter and Sarah exchanged a worried glance, and took off after her.  She led them back to the electronics store where’d they’d left the djinn the previous night and climbed in through the window.  Azkular squatted by the working television as if he hadn’t moved all night.  Droma stood just behind him, stooping so he would fit in the room.  Ozzie was standing opposite them, with Misty by his side— still in human form.  Manchi sat behind them, looking as if she had only just woken up.

 

“What is it?” Porter asked as he went to join them.  Sarah stepped through the window behind him.

 

Azkular turned to give him a grim look.  “Look at this.  It started playing it a couple hours ago, and it just keeps looping.  It’s on at least twenty different channels.”

 

Porter knelt down next to him and looked at the television just as the video started over.  Sarah flinched when she felt his stomach clench in alarm.  She looked over his shoulder, and jumped when she saw Mortoph glaring back at them.

 

“Hello,” the Slayer told the camera, his voice and expression both deathly serious.  “My name is Drake Mortoph.  I am broadcasting this message from what you know as Red Castle.”

 

“What’s he doing on there?” Sarah hissed.

 

“Shh!” Porter said, and turned his attention back to the TV.

 

“First, I must issue a heartfelt apology,” Mortoph continued.  “I am the leader of a secret organization known as the Slayers.  For millennia, it has been our responsibility to protect humanity from the inhuman monsters that threaten our existence— the very monsters that have been attacking our cities and slaughtering innocent people.  We have failed.  For that,” be bowed his head, looking mournful, “I am sincerely sorry.”

 

He looked back at the camera, his eyes hard and defiant.  “But their reign of terror ends today.  My men and I will not sit back and watch as our sworn enemies kill and destroy everything we hold dear.  That is why today, the Slayers will march against this army of monsters and kill every last one of them.  People of the world, this is my solemn promise: you have nothing to fear.  By sundown tonight, it will all be over.”

 

The screen went dark for a few seconds, Mortoph’s image fading to nothing before lighting up again and replaying the video.  Porter clenched his fist, and Sarah was taken aback by the fiery anger that sprang up inside of him.

 

“So,” he said slowly, “that’s how he’s going to do it.”

 

“I would say he already has,” Droma said, his voice dark.

 

“It’s just like Granger said,” Azkular agreed, standing up.  “He waited for the Mythics to cause some chaos, and now he’s announcing to the world that he’s their knight in shining armor, riding in at the last second to save the day.”  He shook his head, his eyes closed.  “The worst part is that it’s going to work.”

 

Sarah couldn’t deny the truth in that statement.  Rayalga had made the Mythics the enemies of humanity.

 

“Then we have to hurry,” Porter said, standing up.  Sarah stood up too.  “We have to get there before the two armies meet.”

 

“We have no idea how long that will take,” Azkular replied.  “I told you, that message started playing hours ago.  For all we know, they’ve already started fighting.”

 

“There has to be a way we can find out,” Sarah argued.  “Are any of the other channels reporting on it?”

 

Azkular shook his head again.  “I’ve already checked.  All the channels that would be reporting on something like this are playing Mortoph’s message.”

 

Porter groaned, standing up and pacing the room in an effort to relieve his stress.  After a few seconds, he stopped and looked at them again.

 

“What about a mirror?” he asked.

 

Droma raised his eyebrows in surprise.  “That would work, but only if someone in either the Slayers or the Mythic army had another mirror we could look out of.”

 

Porter sighed, but now it was Sarah’s turn to step forward.

 

“Not necessarily,” she said with a sudden burst of inspiration.  “Father Lucius taught me something when he was giving me a tour of the Historians’ Tower.”

 

She turned to the giant hunched over in the corner. “Droma, you know how the historians collected their information, right?”  Without waiting for him to answer, she explained. “Father Lucius told me that using a magic mirror was less about mirrors, and more about perspective.”

 

Turning away from them, she ran to the window and looked up at the bright blue sky.

 

“The Historians used the sky as their other mirror.  Something about the greenhouse effect…”

 

“That the gasses in our atmosphere would reflect the sun’s rays back down at the earth,” Droma finished for her, finally catching on.  A smile came to his face.  “Of course!  We can look at the Mythic army from the sky!”

 

“Quick, find a mirror!” Porter ordered them, leaping through the open window and running to one of the other shops.  Sarah went after him.

 

“Good thinking,” he said to her, and she smiled, sending a rush of pride from her heart to his.

 

Five minutes later, the group was gathered in a circle in the street, surrounding a long and narrow mirror Droma had wrenched off the wall of a clothing store’s dressing room.  The Soul Smith knelt down over it and placed two fingers on the glass.  Invisible magic poured from his fingers into the mirror, and suddenly the image zoomed out.  Where they had just before been staring at their own reflections, they now saw a bird’s eye view of the town.  Droma shifted his fingers a little, and the image panned across the landscape.

 

“Which way is Red Castle from here?” Porter asked.

 

“This way,” the Soul Smith answered as the reflection flew over the top of the forest.  Miles passed underneath them in the space of a few seconds, until…

 

“Stop!” Porter and Sarah said in unison.  The image froze just above a large colorful mass moving through the woods.

 

“It’s them,” Porter said, anxiety biting at his stomach.

 

Droma panned across the forest again, more slowly this time, until Red Castle came into view.  What looked like a giant shadow was spread out in front of it— the Slayer army in their black coats.

 

“They’re almost there!” Sarah exclaimed, terror shooting from her soul to Porter’s.  He instinctively reached out and grabbed her arm to comfort her.

 

“We have less than half an hour,” Azkular agreed, standing up, his black and red eyes burning with energy.  “We have to go now!”

 

“Everyone join hands,” Droma instructed, kicking the mirror away.  The spell dissolved the moment he took his hand off of it, and the mirror shattered when it struck a nearby wall.  “I will teleport us there.”

 

Everyone obeyed, forming a circle.  Instead of joining them immediately, Sarah turned and knelt so she would be at eye level with Manchi.

 

“Manchi,” she said. “I want you to go into one of these buildings and hide.  Don’t come out for anybody except for us, okay?  If someone finds you, run from them as fast as you can.”

 

“Y- you’re leaving me?” Manchi asked, taking a step away from Sarah.  “You said you wouldn’t!”

 

“Sweetie, I don’t want to leave you,” she said, taking the little chimera by her shoulders, “but what we’re about to do will be very dangerous.  I don’t want you to get hurt, so please stay here!”

 

“But…”

 

“We’ll come back for you, I promise.”

 

Hesitantly, Manchi nodded her head and ran for the nearest shop.  With a sigh, Sarah watched her go and then joined the circle.

 

“Everyone probably isn’t going to come back from this,” she heard Porter think with a frightened jolt.  It was the thought she had been trying to keep out of her head all along, but now Porter brought it in uninvited, summoning images of all their friends being slaughtered by Slayers and Mythics alike.

 

“Stop that,” she chastised him.  “Everything is going to be fine!”

 

Porter took a couple of deep breaths, and took her hand.  They needed to think about how to keep everyone alive, not all the ways they might die.

 

Droma took his place at opposite end of the circle from Porter, joining hands with Azkular and Ozzie.

 

“Are you ready?” the giant asked.  His solemn eyes showed that he had no illusions about what they were about to run into, but he was ready.

 

“Yes,” Porter answered.  Sarah echoed him, followed by Ozzie, Misty, and Azkular.

 

“Very well,” Droma acknowledged, and closed his eyes, summoning the magic to take them to the battlefield.  A ring of bright yellow light sprang up around them, and—

 

“Look out!” Azkular shouted suddenly.  He jerked his hands free and jumped into the air.  His knives appeared in his hands, and he lashed out with them before landing outside the circle.

 

Two arrows clattered to the ground, both of them cut cleanly in half.

 

“Move!” the djinn ordered just as another volley of arrows flew towards them.  Everyone ducked and ran for cover as the wooden shafts pelted the asphalt around them.  Luckily, nobody was hit.

 

“What’s going on?” Sarah shouted as she pressed herself against the wall of a store.  “I thought the Slayers were all at their base!”

 

“They are,” Azkular answered from across the street, his eyes fixed on the woods at the edge of town.

 

Sarah followed his gaze just in time to see the first traces of their enemies emerge from the trees.  They weren’t wearing black coats.  Many of them, in fact, wore nothing but their own fur.

 

“Th- they’re Mythics!” she exclaimed, taking a step back, her eyes wide.

 

As if waiting for their cue, three of the more human-shaped Mythics raised their bows and notched arrows.

 

“Duck!” Porter shouted, grabbing her and leaping through one of the open windows just as the arrows were loosed.  They whipped past her, passing less than an inch away, and Sarah felt one of them graze the top of her wing.  She quickly tucked it in, turning pale.

 

Out in the street, Azkular was still dodging and slashing arrows out of the air.  Droma stood by his side, covering himself with a large shield he had summoned.  Ozzie and Misty had jumped into the store opposite Porter and Sarah’s.

 

“Here they come!” the djinn warned them, and Sarah turned to see that the Mythics had forgone long ranged attacks and were now charging directly at Azkular and Droma.

 

“Come on!” Porter shouted, and jumped back into the street to help his friends.  Sarah hesitated, but then remembered that she wasn’t defenseless anymore and followed him, summoning her new armor.  Flicker appeared in her hand, ready to be used.

 

“What about you?” She asked as she ran to Porter’s side.

 

A twinge of uncertainty pinched Porter’s chest, but he said, “Don’t worry about me.  I’ll be fine.”

 

She wanted to argue, but didn’t have a chance.  The next moment, her armor guided her arm upward to deflect the blow from a dwarven axe.  True to Porter’s word, the metal didn’t even dent.  It strengthened her so much, in fact, that the burly dwarf was thrown onto his backside, his weapon falling to the ground beside him.

 

Wow! She thought in awe as Flicker pulled her hand up to prevent another Mythic’s sword from slamming into her head.  She followed it up with a kick to its chest, and sent it flying backwards into three other Mythics, knocking them all to the ground.

 

“Don’t let your guard down!” Porter warned her from a few feet away.  She glanced over and saw him nimbly dodging attack after attack, but without a weapon he couldn’t fight back.

 

“You need to get out of here,” she told him.  “You can’t keep that up for—”

 

Before she could finish her sentence, an elf wielding a sword came at Porter.  It lunged at him, but Porter sidestepped the blade and grabbed his wrist, halting him, before jumping into the air and slamming his knee into the elf’s face, forcing him to let go of his sword.  Porter spun it around and held it at the ready, challenging another Mythic to come at him.  The blade was wider and a few inches longer than Flicker’s, but he was still able to hold it with one hand.

 

“You were saying?” He asked, knocking aside a spear aimed at his chest.  “Stop worrying about me and fight!”

 

“Okay,” Sarah agreed, turning her attention to the satyr she had been fighting almost without realizing it.

 

Ozzie, Misty, Droma, and Azkular were spread out around the street.  Misty had morphed back into her wolf form, and was busy biting and scratching any Mythic that came too close to her.  By an unspoken agreement, nobody killed their opponents, which wasn’t easy since they would jump right back up and keep fighting, even after taking a solid blow to the head.

 

The silence was eerie, Sarah realized.  Despite the commotion, the only sounds she could hear were metal weapons clashing against each other.  Their attackers weren’t shouting war cries, grunting as they swung their weapons, or even crying out in pain when they were struck.

 

“Could it be?” She wondered.

 

The satyr lashed out at her again, and she used Flicker to slap his weapon away before grabbing him by his neck.  Pulling him close, she looked directly into his eyes.

 

Red and black.

 

“They’re the Repurposed!” she shouted, pushing the satyr away as he flailed his fists, trying to punch her.

 

“What?” Azkular yelled in shock as he knocked a centaur out cold.  “But there’s so many of them!”

 

He wasn’t the only one surprised.  Sarah would never have expected Mortoph to amass this many Mythics to brainwash.  Then again, nobody knew how long he’d been doing this.  None of them could deny, though, that each and every one of the creatures they fought had black and red eyes, identical to Azkular’s.

 

“What do we do?” Ozzie asked.  “Kill them?”

 

“No!” Azkular answered sharply.  “We have to escape.  I don’t think they’ll come after us!”

 

“Everyone, get together!” Porter commanded, swinging his new sword with just as much skill as he had with Flicker.  The flat of the blade struck foe after foe, knocking them down but never causing any permanent damage.

 

Sarah turned and began to fight her way over to him, but Repurposed Mythics had flooded the streets, making it difficult to move.  Just like Porter had promised, her armor guided her every step, carrying her safely through the fight.  She reached Porter a minute later and put her hand on his shoulder to let him know she was there.  Droma and Azkular were fighting their way towards them as well, but Ozzie and Misty were having trouble.

 

“We have to help them,” she telepathically called to Porter.  Her chimera twin nodded, but before he could run to their aid, Sarah felt a jarring blow strike the side of her helmet.  It knocked her off her feet, and she hit the ground hard.  She rolled with her momentum, and the armor helped her spring back to her feet to face her new opponent, a large, golden furred…

 

Sarah froze, her mind going blank from shock.

 

“Mom?” she screamed as the sphinx she now faced reared up on its hind legs, trying to claw her own daughter through her armor.

 

Mrs. Heisen’s claws wouldn’t have been able to cut through the Kalion armor, but Sarah still would have been knocked down again if her armor hadn’t made her leap backwards out of reach.

 

It can’t be, she thought, unable to believe what she was seeing— and yet unable to deny it either.  Her mother, who Arch-Mythic Rayalga had told her was dead, was actually alive.

 

And she had been Repurposed!

 

“Sarah!” She heard Porter shout at her, but was unable to take her eyes off the sphinx that was quickly advancing on her again, claws bared and lips drawn back in a feral snarl.  Like all the others, her eyes were an unnatural combination of black and red.

 

“It’s my mom!” She said at last.  “She’s one of them!”

 

She could feel the shock coming from Porter as well, matching her own.

 

“I don’t know what to do!” She fretted, backing away from the hostile sphinx.  She held Flicker out in front of her, trying to look threatening, but she knew it would do no good.  A Repurposed Mythic felt no fear, only the compulsion to obey.  “I can’t fight my own mother!”

 

“Hold on,” Porter said.  “I’m coming!”

 

The moment he said that, Mrs. Heisen leaped at her daughter.  Sarah reacted as her armor instructed, lashing out with Flicker and striking her mother on the side of the head with the flat of the blade.  Mrs. Heisen was knocked out of the air, skidding a few feet across the pavement before coming to a rest.  A dark red streak was left on the street where she had slid, but she still got right back to her paws and came at Sarah again.

 

Sarah felt the armor urging her to raise her hand to attack her mom’s neck.

 

No! Sarah argued.  I’m not going to kill her!

 

The armor changed tactics at the last second, and Sarah raised her left arm just as Mrs. Heisen pounced on her.  Sarah was knocked onto her back, pinned under her mother’s weight, while the sphinx rabidly tried to chew through the gauntlet that covered her hand.  Her teeth were sharp, but she wasn’t even able to dent the armor.

 

“Porter, I can’t move!” she thought desperately. “Hurry!”

 

“Hold on!” he said back.  “I’m almost there!”

 

She could tell by his emotions that he was busy fighting off his own opponents.  He was close to her, but who knew how long it would take him to beat them?  Sarah looked into Mrs. Heisen’s eyes, searching for any sort of recognition.  This wasn’t just any Mythic, it was her mother!  No matter what Mortoph had done to her, she had to remember her own daughter, right?  Porter had woken up from it, so her mother could too!  Try as she might, though, she couldn’t find anything in her eyes that revealed that she recognized Sarah as anything but an enemy that had to be killed.

 

“Mom,” she pleaded as sphinx continued to gnaw obsessively at her arm plate, “stop this!  Please!”

 

Whether her mother understood her or not, it was too late.  The next thing Sarah knew, Porter was standing over them.  He kicked Mrs. Heisen with all his might, knocking her down and freeing Sarah.  As before, she sprang back to her paws, but this time she came at Porter.

 

“Don’t hurt her!” Sarah begged him.

 

“I’ll try,” he replied, but was unable to speak further because he was overwhelmed by the lion-woman trying to slash him to ribbons.  Now that Sarah had his armor, it would only take one good swipe of Mrs. Heisen’s claws to kill him.

 

Porter batted one of her paws away, and then took a step backwards.  Sarah knew he could have struck her, but his range of attacks that wouldn’t kill her was limited.  She felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that it was for her sake that he was holding back.

 

Mrs. Heisen spread her wings and began to flap them.  Wind buffeted Porter, pulling on his own wings and almost knocking him over, but he managed to keep his footing.  The sphinx rose into the air, as graceful as a bird of prey, and circled around him.  Sarah was forcibly reminded of a vulture circling its prey, except she knew that her mother wouldn’t wait until Porter was dead to make a move.

 

Without a moment’s warning, the sphinx angled herself downward so that she swooped in toward Porter.  The chimera boy ducked at the last minute, rolling to the side just in time to avoid having his face clawed off.  Mrs. Heisen flapped her wings again, gaining height and creating distance between herself and her enemy.

 

“I…”  Porter stammered inside his heart. “I don’t know how to fight her like this!”

 

Sarah hesitated, and then finally picked herself off the ground.

 

“Do what you have to do,” she said, grimly, as her mother began to circle around to come at them again.

 

“What?” Porter asked, looking at her in shock.  “Sarah, that’s your—”

 

“I know,” she interrupted him. “But we can’t waste our time here.  We have to escape and get to the battlefield.”

 

She felt Porter searching through her emotions, and knew that he wouldn’t find anything that would stop him.  His mood turned grim as well, but he nodded.

 

“Just…” she said, her helmet melting away, “try not to kill her, okay?”

 

Mrs. Heisen swooped down at them again, and Porter let his new sword fall to the ground at his side, no longer able to make it vanish with a single thought.  He pulled his hands behind his back, as if he were going to push somebody, and then thrust them forward.  Instantly, it felt like Sarah was standing in the middle of a hurricane.  The wind caught Mrs. Heisen’s wings and slamming her into the side of a building.

 

Sarah gasped as her mother fell to the ground in a heap while Porter struggled to pull the magic back.  She could feel the strain inside of him.  He was no longer completely human, which meant he was able to cast much more powerful spells with far less effort, and his newfound strength had caught him off guard.  The magic surged from his body into the air around him, propelling the wind forward like a freight train.  It wasn’t easy, but eventually he was able to calm the wind again, and he collapsed to one knee, exhausted.  Luckily, all the Mythics around them had either been knocked down by his spell, or were preoccupied fighting their friends.

 

“Mom!” Sarah shouted, running to where the Repurposed sphinx lay.  Terror raced down her spine at the thought that Porter may have killed her, despite his efforts not to.  When she reached her, she put a hand to Mrs. Heisen’s chest and felt for a heartbeat, and let out a sigh of relief when she found it.

 

“S- Sarah?”

 

With a gasp, Sarah turned to look into her mother’s eyes.  They were still black and red, but no longer shone with the strange apathetic determination they had before.

 

“Mom?” she asked.

 

“You look… different,” Mrs. Heisen said, her voice little more than a hoarse whisper.

 

Despite the situation, Sarah gave a small laugh and blushed.  “Porter and I bonded souls.  We’re chimeras now.”

 

“Chi… mera?” Mrs. Heisen echoed, as if she had no idea what the word meant.

 

“Yes,” Sarah said, leaning in close to explain it.  “We just—”

 

“Sarah, listen to me,” her mother cut her off sharply.  “I can’t stay long.  He doesn’t want me to.  He wants me to… hurt you.”

 

Emotion welled up in Sarah’s chest, and she put a hand over her mother's paw. "I thought you were dead, Mom," she whimpered. "I can't just leave you here. I... I can't!"

 

“You have to,” her mother said, speaking quickly now.  “Don’t have much time left.  Go, before I… hurt…”

 

Mrs. Heisen lashed out before Sarah could react, and she was only saved by her armor.

 

“Go!” Mrs. Heisen commanded, visibly shaking in her efforts to not attack her daughter.  “Now!”

 

 “Come on,” Porter told her, and Sarah felt his hand take hold of her shoulder.  She looked around, and saw that the others had managed to fight their way towards each other.  Azkular, Ozzie, and Misty had taken a defensive formation around Droma as the giant prepared to cast the teleportation spell.  It was time to go.  Sarah cast one last glance at her mother, who was clearly losing the battle against the spell Mortoph had put on her.

 

“We can’t do anything about it here,” Porter urged her.  “We have to focus on stopping Mortoph, and hope that everything works out.”

 

Sarah wrenched her eyes off the mindless sphinx, and nodded.

 

“Mortoph is going to pay for this,” she thought, anger rising up inside of her.

 

“Come on!” Azkular shouted, slamming the hilt of his knife into a fae’s head.

 

Sarah allowed Porter to lead her away, and they joined their friends in the circle.

 

“Join hands!” Droma ordered them.  “I will try to get this done quickly.”

 

Sarah reached out and took Porter’s hand, mentally preparing herself to be whisked away to the battlefield where this would all end.  Maybe beating Mortoph would break the spell he’d put over all these Mythics.  Maybe her mother would—

 

“Sarah!” a small, frightened voice called to her, and she turned to look.

 

“Manchi!” she screamed in horror when she saw the little chimera struggling to make her way over to them.  In all the chaos, she had completely forgotten about her!  No less than a dozen Mythics were coming after her, almost tripping over each other to be the first to grab her as she ran to her friends.

 

“Hold on, Manchi!” Sarah shouted, and released Porter’s hand.

 

“Sarah, be careful!” he yelled.

 

“I can’t just leave her here!” Sarah shot back.

 

It took Sarah less than a second to reach Manchi.  She bent over and scooped her up into her arms, snatching her away from the greedy hands of the Repurposed.

 

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she said over and over again, more to herself than the little girl who had a death grip around her shoulders.  She backpedaled as quickly as she could, afraid to turn her back on her pursuers, but instantly realized that she wouldn’t be able to outrun them.  Their weapons were drawn, and they were getting closer.

 

“Feel the air around you,” Porter spoke into her mind.  “Feel how it moves.”

 

“What?” Sarah exclaimed, kicking out at a cyclops that was reaching for her.

 

“Feel it!” Porter said again.  “Focus!”

 

Just as Sarah was wondering how she was supposed to focus while trying to outrun an army of mindless Mythics, she realized she was already doing it.  She could actually feel the air around her, hanging still except where the battle disturbed it.  It was practically begging to be moved.

 

“You know what to do,” Porter said.  “Do it!”

 

Through their connection, Sarah found that she did indeed know what to do.  The Mythics before her parted slightly as her mother forced her way to the front, ready to tear her daughter to shreds.  Mrs. Heisen charged at her, and Sarah opened her wings and jumped.  The wind reacted, and sent a massive gust her way. Despite her circumstances, she couldn’t help but feel a rush of excitement when the ground fell away from her, the wind lifting her higher and higher.  She didn’t flap her wings, they weren’t strong enough to lift her anyway, she just held them open, letting the wind carry her away from the hostile Mythics.  She was no less in control than if she had been flapping, though.  The wind obeyed her every command, and now it began lowering her to the ground again, where her friends were waiting.  Her feet touched the pavement, and the wind instantly died.

 

“Sarah!” Misty exclaimed.  “That was amazing!”

 

“We can admire her flying later,” Azkular said, kicking yet another Repurposed away from him.  “Get us out of here!”

 

Porter reached out and put his hand on Sarah’s shoulder, since she was using both of hers to hold Manchi, and Droma initiated the spell.  Sarah was all too aware of the child she held in her arms— and where they were taking her.  Did she really have a choice, though?  Maybe Manchi would be able to hide again before the fighting started.  As yellow light began to spring from the ground, Sarah looked through it and spotted her mother one last time, charging at the group, determined to stop them.

 

Then the light grew too bright to see out of, taking them to Red Castle, where the fate of the world would be decided.

 

  

NEXT TIME: Okay, folks, no more distractions.  No more sidequests.  They’re heading for the final battle, and no matter how it ends it will be the end of everything.  Will they stop Mortoph, or will Uthas Drall take over the world yet again?

FOLLOW ME

  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic